Reuters reported yesterday that twenty two years after Tiananmen Square at least five individuals who took part in the demonstration remain imprisoned. There names are Jiang Yaqun, 75, Miao Deshun, 48, and Yang Pu, 47, Chang Jingqiang, 43, and Li Yujun, 48.
Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate, is currently imprisoned for his continued non-violent activism but had already served a prison sentence for his participation in the Tiananmen student protest.
Others participants like Yang Jianli are currently in exile but continue to speak out and demand justice. In an open letter that he will deliver later today to the UN Secretary General he states:
Twenty-two years ago today, Chinese Communist dictators, responding to student-led pro-democracy protests, called out tens of thousands of troops to “crush a counter-revolutionary riot." In a spasm of unimaginable violence, heavily armed soldiers and tanks attacked peaceful protesters. They shot at unarmed Chinese in and near Tiananmen Square, resulting in the death and maiming of thousands of their own citizens.In 2011 Muammar Gaddafi believed that he could get away with mass murder because the world looked the other way in June of 1989 in Beijing and said it plainly: "The unity of China was more important than those people on Tiananmen Square." Its not the first time impunity in one bloody deed has encouraged another. Between 1915 and 1917 the Ottoman Turks murdered more than 1.5 million Armenians and like the Chinese communists in 1989 got away with it. This inspired Adolph Hitler to carry out his own holocaust stating in 1939: "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
Young men and women vanished beneath tank tracks or lost their limbs. Others perished in a hail of gunfire from soldiers using assault rifles. Mothers lost their only sons and daughters. Children were orphaned, left to forever miss their parent’s love and warm embrace. Families were shattered. This was the single most tragic day in the history of modern China.
Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel has denounced indifference and silence before injustice stating that: "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."
It is in that spirit that this blog post is published today along with the time line below.
Abbreviated Time line of the June 4, 1989 massacre
30 May 1989 - The Goddess of Democracy is unveiled.
2 June 1989 - Liu Xiaobo and others start a hunger strike at 5 pm
3 June 1989 - Troops are ordered to reclaim Tiananmen Square at all cost. They begin to open fire upon people blocking the advancement of the army and also on people who are just shouting at the troops. Tanks and armored vehicles move towards the center of the city.
4 June 1989 - 1 am, troops surround Tiananmen Square and wait for orders
4 am, Liu Xiaobo and the other three men who began the second hunger strike negotiate with the troops to allow the students to leave the Square.
5 am, thousands of students, teachers and supporters leave the Square at gunpoint.
During this period of time, troops shoot two waves of fire.
5 June 1989 - Final act of defiance. An unarmed men blocks a column of tanks as they rolled towards Tiananmen Square. He's taken away by men in plainclothes. 22 years later his identity remains unknown.